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McMenamin is breathing new life into the Ernemen

 

By Declan Bogue

It may still be January, but Sunday's Dr McKenna Cup semi-final - in which Tyrone saw off Fermanagh - was contested as if it were July.

If this offered a glimpse of the level of determination in Fermanagh already then, disregarding the result on a pitch that made their running game an impossibility, Erne fans will have been encouraged so far as they prepare to welcome Wexford to Brewster Park for the start of Division Three of the National League on January 28.

In the middle of it all was a familiar face to both sets of supporters, three-time All-Ireland-winning Tyrone legend Ryan McMenamin, now a selector for his neighbouring county under manager Rory Gallagher.

In his role as runner on and off the pitch, he was a visible presence, leading Red Hands manager Mickey Harte to quip afterwards: "It was good to see he can still run and talk."

Gallagher has hailed McMenamin's arrival as a "breath of fresh air".

"Maybe the Ricey factor brought the big crowd," he said.

"He's just a really infectious guy. From a management point of view he is great to deal with and he brings a lot that the boys can learn from.

"I know they are enjoying working under him and I hope we can get the benefit of that."

Gallagher had no previous dealings with the Dromore man, but his reputation as a leader inside a dressing room and in under-age coaching with his club had travelled far.

He explained: "I was looking for somebody I felt had the skillsets that might help myself and others in the management team and I had heard a lot of what he had done coaching-wise in his career.

"He was a player that made any team he played in better and he helped the players around him. We are hoping he will do that for our defenders and players all over the pitch."

Midfielder Eoin Donnelly is now in his seventh year of county football, most of them spent as captain - a role which he retains under Gallagher - and he has been impressed with the new management team which includes former county players Ronan Gallagher and Shane McCabe.

"They are passionate, they have played the game quite recently," said the Coa O'Dwyers man.

"They are heavily involved in teams at a good and a high level, and they are trying to bring us up really to what they have experienced in the past.

"So they have more insight that they can bring to get us up to that level.

"The training has been top quality and every night at training you feel you are being pushed and driven on.

"It's my seventh year playing and you feel you want to continue to improve instead of tailing off at the end of your career. You want to feel like you can keep pushing on rather than drifting off."

Donegal player Neil McGee revealed that when former manager Jim McGuinness and his assistant Gallagher were in the early stages of the team's development in 2011, he found it difficult to get to sleep at night as his body was adjusting to the pain of rigorous training.

Their hallmark was always that they wanted to be the county team that trained the hardest on that night.

Asked if the Fermanagh team were embarking on something similar with Gallagher at the helm, Donnelly answered:"I think all the managers we worked under have always been pushing us very, very hard in the early stages because everybody wants to impress and get to a fitness level to be selected.

"We feel we are training hard and putting in good work, but realistically we don't know what other teams are doing so you can only put in the work yourself."

Meanwhile, it was announced by the Ulster Council that tomorrow's second Dr McKenna Cup semi-final between Armagh and Donegal would be played in Ballybofey after Donegal won the toss for home venue.

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